Oldest Teeth Ever Found

We aren’t talking about grandma’s decaying teeth here.

For those with an interest in learning about fish fossils, the latest discovery might be an astonishing finding. A big catch of fish fossils was found in southern China and it includes the oldest teeth ever documented. The discovery provides new clues to scientists with regards to understanding how our aquatic ancestors got their bite. 

The current data has gaps as there weren’t many fossils found from the Silurian period, which is an important era for life on earth from 443 million years ago to 419 million years ago. Scientists believe our fish ancestors, who were still swimming around on a watery planet, may have started evolving teeth and jaws around this time. The new discoveries of fossils provide insight into a key period of evolution that was previously not fully understood.

In the course of four studies, published in the journal Nature, researchers reveal the findings about the ancient teeth. Min Zhu, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences led the research with her team. On a rainy day, researchers stumbled upon a pile of rocks near a roadside cliff. When they split one rock open, they found fossilized fish heads looking back at them.

After gathering more rocks back to the lab for examination, the research team gathered a wide range of fossils that were in great condition for their age.

“The researchers found bones called tooth whorls with multiple teeth growing on them. The fossils are 14 million years older than any other teeth found from any species — and provide the earliest solid evidence of jaws to date”, Zhu said. 

“It’s just at this interface between the Old World and the New World,” said Philip Donoghue, a University of Bristol paleontologist who was part of the study.

In the past, scientists haven’t found many fossils to show this shift. They’ve been relying on fragments from the time — a chunk of spine here, a bit of scale there. The fossils from China are expected to fill in some of those gaps as researchers around the world draw conclusions from them.